God is love. It sounds so simple that we, reading those words, may be inclined just to nod and move on. We have heard it all our lives. It is accepted as a self-evident fact. Yet contained in those simple words is the most astonishing revelation of the ages. It explains and makes all of life worth living.
Think of the implications of the statement: GOD IS LOVE. Assume a Being in whom there is nothing dark; whose very essence is light and love. When we imagine Him as an arbitrary, demanding tyrant, or when we try to force Him into some other hostile image which we have invented, we are doing Him an injustice. He has told us Who He is. He is Life. He is Light. He is Love.
When I am feeling lonely and sad, I can wrap the truth of God’s love around me like a warm blanket. It lets me know that I am not really alone; that there is Someone Who always cares about me and wants my good.
I look around me and see the evil that is everywhere; people full of greed and hate and completely self-oriented. I begin to fear for the future; fear for the children here now and for their children to come. Remembering that God is love, I can gain perspective in knowing that evil will never completely overcome. When I have occasional doubts and questions about the way the world is going, and don’t always understand God’s apparent strategy, I remind myself of the words of Bishop Ambrose (c. 340-379 AD) when questioned about such things: “We serve a good Master.” I can trust in the goodness and love of God for future generations.
I have often heard the angry, bitter, ridiculing words of those who choose to deny the existence of God, for whom faith is a crutch and a lie, who see it as causing evil in the world. My heart breaks for them; they have never really understood the message and work of Christ; they have never understood how much God loves them. Instead, they have chosen to believe that life is just random. It is so much easier that way; there need be no accountability. Cynics see and hear evil in the world, often from the hands of those who call themselves Christian, and they lay the blame on God rather than on the disobedience or ignorance of people who have casually (but perhaps not truthfully) identified themselves as followers of Christ. Are we able to look at our own lives and be satisfied that we have done all we could to demonstrate that God is Love?
We Christians will have a lot of explaining to do, I think, when we stand before God and our lives are revealed. I have been forgiven, and my salvation is not in jeopardy, but I must admit there are things about my life I would rather not re-examine. I may be absolved, but I still feel shame… and that is as it should be. Shame is a great deterrent against making the same mistakes twice. The thing that has made it right is grace. I am so glad that I will be judged by Love, and that forgiveness is possible for me because God so loved the world…
If we ever wonder if God really loves us, if He can really want intimacy with us, we only need to examine the Incarnation. We have just celebrated the coming of God to earth in the form of man; as a peasant child who would experience all the difficulties of what it means to be fully human. What does that mean? Why would God, in the glory of whatever heaven is, have chosen to make Himself “of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-slave, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of a cross.? (Philippians 2:7~8)
John tells us: By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. (1 John 3:16)
I love the First Epistle of John. In it the Apostle John defines the nature of God: God is light; God is love; and God is life. Over and over he tells us of the great love of God for us, and how we demonstrate our love for Him: by loving each other.
What would it be if we truly loved one another as He loves us? His love is unselfish; it is full of grace and mercy; it is faithful and not dependent on any expectation of reward. “Love suffers long, and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely; does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
(1 Corinthians 13: 4-8) How would our relationships change if we practiced what we say we believe? How would the world change if those who name the name of Christ consistently demonstrated these characteristics instead of pride and smug self-satisfaction? How well do we truly reflect the nature and character of Christ in our thoughts and actions? Can we really say that we are signposts to Christ; walking billboards who stir the curiosity of the unbelievers around us by demonstrating the spirit of compassionate love throughout our lives? Love tempered by wisdom and discernment is the cure for a lot of the pain surrounding us today. Do we help, or do we promote disharmony with our rigidity and lack of forgiveness?
It is hard to accept that there will always be those whose hearts are hardened against the Love of God, and who will continue to ridicule and mock Him; convinced in their own minds of their superior viewpoint. However, man may scoff all he likes; God will have the last word. Those who have rejected Him have chosen autonomy over obedience, and their choice will then be met by His holiness and justice instead of forgiveness and grace. Eventually every knee will bow to Him, even the scoffers. How sad for them that they will never know the joy of peace with God.
In spite of all that man does (including many who profess to know God) to counter-act the love of God in the world, He is still present and active. Over the ages He has shown Himself in many ways according to the prevailing accumulated wisdom and sophistication of men at the time: through scripture and theophanies, through voices, dreams, and prophets. Finally, in the Incarnation, He has shown us His final and deepest revelation: Himself in human form. Jesus said: “I and my Father are One” (John 10:30)
By this you know the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” (1John 4: 2) With the scriptures and the life, death, and resurrection of the Christ, we know all of God it is necessary to know. Ultimately, it is Love which He has shown us, and it is Love that most closely defines Him.
When we think of death we often imagine ourselves waking on the other side and seeing His face. Will He be still in human form, only glorified? Will He be a bright light or a thunderous voice? I have no real information other than assumption ~ but what I do imagine is that in my new form His Love will be assimilated into every part of me, and the bottomless chasm in me and every human who longs for unconditional love will finally be filled. The light of His holiness will insure that the darkness of sadness and pain will be gone forever. I have no real idea what we will do for eternity; I have no idea if we will be even remotely as we have been on earth. I do know that we will finally understand the fullness of Love and Light and Life ~ and that the Lord Jesus Christ will be in our midst forever and we will worship Him.
Ultimately, none of this is relevant to me at the moment. I am still earthbound, and unfortunately still fettered to my old nature. My task until the end has been made clear: to love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and mind, and my neighbor as myself. That is quite enough to handle. My prayer is that I will be a clear channel: a representative of Christ, and a grateful reflection of the Love of God.